This in-class activity is near foolproof. The activity rests on the idea that students have a lot to say when they're talking about something they're interested in and passionate about. It works best with an even number of students, 8-14 total. Nevertheless, it could be used in much larger classrooms with a few adaptations.
- Skills: Speaking
- Levels: High-beginner through advanced
- Materials: Copies of the Classroom Handout, one for each student (You may have to cut this sheet to get "page two" on the back.)
- Preparation: 5 minutes
- Time: 60-90 minutes
Directions: Introduce the lesson by writing the word "expert" on the board and eliciting a definition. The write the expression "jack of all trades," and provide a personal example of someone you know. I use my brother for this one. I say something like, "My brother really is a jack of all trades. He's interested in a lot of different things. He knows a lot about a lot of different things. For example, he went to university for nuclear engineering, so he knows a lot about science. He worked for the government as an engineer. Later, he got an MBA, so he knows a lot about business. He's certified to scuba dive, and has thought about opening his own diving shop. He likes to ski. He can cook. He makes a lot of different types of food. He can fix things in the house when they break. Also, he likes to travel, and he's been to more than 40 different countries, and he really enjoys history, especially American history. So there's a lot of different things my brother is good at." By now, the students understand what the expression means (and the women are asking whether or not my brother is single).
Next, call on individual students. Ask them if they are jacks of all trades. Ask what they've studied, what they're interested in. After you've asked a few students, tell students to think of five things they're interested in. Remind students that these things should be varied ("Playing soccer, playing tennis, and swimming are all one category: sports.) At this point, you may want to do a brief grammatical review on the use of gerunds to describe activities. Next, pass out the copies. As the students are writing, circulate and check for correct grammar. Encourage variety on the responses.
Now, tell students to choose three of these things to rewrite at the bottom. They are going to be the classroom expert on these three things.
Once students have finished listing their three areas of expertise, instruct them to fold their papers in half separating the two lists. Now divide the class into As and Bs. As will be the first group of classroom experts. Bs will be the first group of questioners. As will remain at their desks. Bs will circulate.
Have all the Bs put their papers aside and stand up. Ask them to arrange the desks so that every student who is still sitting has a desk directly facing him/her. Now, tell the Bs to wander around and sit down in front of an A. They should read As topics and ask about something they're interested in.
You should find that the conversation gets going immediately. If you're class is an uneven number, you can play too. Otherwise, you can just join different pairs and monitor.
After about 5-7 minutes call "Change!" The Bs stand up again, circulated, and choose a new partner for conversation.
Halfway through the time for your lesson, the As sit down with their sheets. They are now the classroom experts. The Bs get up and circulate, asking questions of the As.
Allow 3-5 minutes at the end of class for synthesis. Bring the class back together. Call on individual students to report on what they've learned. Encourage them to continue their conversations outside of class.
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